Aunt Hannah was a cousin in some degree of my grandfather. In the intricate complexity of our family tree, it is possible that she was a cousin in more than one degree. In small rural communities, intermarriage of cousins was a frequent occurrence.
Hannah would have been described at the time as “simple.” It seems a much kinder word than many of the terms used now.
Hannah worked in a school meals kitchen, preparing the vegetables each day for hundreds of school dinners eaten at the school at which she worked and at the schools supplied by that kitchen. The pay would not have been much, but it allowed her money of her own, and a sense of independence.
Hannah joined various of her cousins for a day out to Weymouth. The train was caught from Langport, with presumably a change at Yeovil, so as to reach the Dorset seaside town.
A fine day was enjoyed, but at the end of it, Hannah was nowhere to be found. Worried family members had to return to Langport fearing something had happened to Hannah. A week later, Hannah reappeared at Langport station, she had been to Jersey for the week.
Anyone familiar with Weymouth will recall that the train once ran right down to the harbour, running along the streets at one point. The channel island ferry would only have been a short step away.
However “simple”, she may have been, but Hannah must also have possessed a capacity for planning and calculation. A ticket for the sea crossing would have had to have been bought, accommodation in Jersey would have had to be paid for, and spending money would have been required to make the week a worthwhile experience.
The family were mystified as much mystified by how Hannah had financed her holiday as they were by the fact that she had gone for a daytrip and had disappeared for a week without telling anyone.
A while later, Hannah asked at home if she might borrow some money. Her National Insurance stamps had gone unpaid and she wished to pay her contributions. Money that usually paid for stamps on a National Insurance card had obviously been set aside each week for the quietly planned week in Jersey.
There is something delightful in the story of Hannah’s holiday, a tale of a person who refused to conform to the role ascribed to her, a tale of an independent spirit.